After weeks of pitching a fit, Jackie is subjected to a film she appears to be not much of a fan of. It's the story of a caveman frozen in ice for millennia only to thawed out in early 90's SoCal....what possibly horrors will he (or us) face in Encino Man?!?!
We take a look at each of the films and share our meat and two bits with you! That makes this episode a bit on the long side but we had quite a bit to say about this years field. There will be spoilers so be careful!
During the episode I will only mention Love & Friendship specifically as a film I thought to be as strong as the middle to upper end of the Best Picture field. However, the 9 overall nominations after the few hits included some distant misses seeming to be a symptom of a very wide second tier field following; La La Land, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. I saw 6 of the 9 nominations and immediately thought The Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge had no business being invited to the party. So I will start with films that I saw which I thought to be superior to the aforementioned two.
Yorgos Lanthimos, director of the acclaimed Dogtooth, brings us a theater of the absurd set in a dystopian future. Rachel Wiesz steals the show but the entire cast, including Colin Farrell and John C. Reilly perform admirably. With a rather slender budget it avoids the many pitfalls of low budget science fiction with strong writing and a setting that is only far enough into the future that things still look the same yet have become ideologically ridiculous. It does however have it’s hand in the cookie jar. Though it is a nominee for Best Original Screenplay this year at the Academy Awards and BAFTA it also won the Jury Prize at Cannes, only last year. Due to a distribution tug of war this little buddy is having it’s cake and eating it to as it has become eligible through two seasons. The Online Critics Society gave it an award last year and a nomination this year, they might be idiots.
Critics are less divided about this Woody Allen film than usual, but didn’t clamor as they did for Match Point or Blue Jasmine. Though it might not be on the same level of those two it is an above average effort from a filmmaker who, from a perspective of craft, is not only prolific but technically superior to most of his supposed peers. This is Allen’s 47th dance as a writer/director. On the show we commonly gush as to the prolific production of Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski. Though Allen might not spit them out like those two, if we conform to the highest of cinematic standards they have made exactly 0 good movies and he’s made about 47. Even if we say over half of his films have been thematically un-enjoyable, his technical elements are still sound. His train wrecks have fewer mistakes than the average director’s best film. This effort, before I become sidetracked on his career as a whole, is decidedly strong. It oddly shares the same dream subtext as La La Land but makes entirely opposite statements. Thought the presentation is light in heart and tone the subtext and his voice as narrator are decidedly darker if not altogether pessimistic. For me it’s greatest strength is putting Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in lead roles and then nailing them down into very thoughtful performances in contrast to either of their natural whimsy, which in the past has driven me nuts.
Jeff Nichols had his hands full this year as he rolled out both the science fiction Midnight Special and Loving, which chronicles the case of Loving vs. The State of Virginia. Loving is the last name of two people, who by law are not allowed to be married as they are not the same race. As with all “true story” films a director has to be an adequate steward of the story, as with an adaptation of a great novel. The trap is to only “not screw it up”. This is my biggest surprise for no Best Picture Nomination. Nichols runs a very tight ship. Ruth Negga gets a nod for Best Actress and I thought Edgerton certainly should have respectively gotten the same nomination for Best Actor, especially over Andrew “is the camera on” Garfield. This, beyond being a very important story, is a very good film. Evidence to my claim that it should have received a Best Picture nomination is the level to which it is cleaning up in the peripheral awards, having already won 34 of 87 nominations. If placed directly next to another true story, Hacksaw Ridge, by comparison this is a marble palace
Now I will turn to two films which, from a production stand point, might not be as strong as The Arrival, but I found more enjoyable. These films were better than Hacksaw Ridge. In the previous paragraph I mention the stewardship of a story and “not screwing it up”. Hacksaw Ridge screwed up an amazing story about a courageous individual.
Jeff Nichols other 2016 effort didn’t blow my doors off but I did like it. I actually liked it a lot. I think the main problem this film has is the continual comparisons to Close Encounters and ET. These comparisons have been on some of the posters and it is a disservice to compare a lean, modestly budgeted film like this to anything Spielberg has ever done. I can make a fair comparison; Starman. If you like Starman, which I do, you will like Midnight Special. If Starman has a formula or recipe, Midnight Special follows it directly, even to the somewhat underwhelming climax, which I actually appreciate in both films. The fan of Starman will relish in the completely different setting, characters and events. So yes, it is Starman, while at the same time as different as it can possibly be while maintaining the same spirit.
Knight of Cups
You don’t have to watch it and you don’t have to like it if you do. Terrence Malick is definitely not for everyone. He is apparently for some of the folks that made films that were nominated for Best Picture. I found both The Arrival and Moonlight to be heavily derivative of Malick’s filmmaking. Specifically the visual style that has dominated his films since teaming continually with Emmanuel Lubezki. In the case of Moonlight I also saw elements that would harken back to the earlier Malick films specifically Days of Heaven. I will admit that, though I’ve grown to really admire it, I thought he had come off the rails the first time I saw The Tree of Life. His follow up, To the Wonder was mostly panned when I would have guessed it to be more palatable to a wider audience. This year Knight of Cups was received with similar enthusiasm as To the Wonder. Knight of Cups caused me to go back and watch The Tree of Life and To the Wonder over again. The Tree of Life isn’t necessarily connected to what he’s trying to do with To the Wonder, Knight of Cups and the upcoming Song to Song, but it does seem to serve as the springboard to the following trilogy. I hesitantly say trilogy as you really never know what Malick is going to do. The upcoming Song to Song which will release in about a month is supposed to finish the autobiographical emotional trilogy started by the two I have just mentioned. The films don’t seem to play chronologically with his life as the events in Knight of Cups would seem to mirror earlier events in his life and not the middle. Though on the surface it seems quite complicated with the reading of pilgrim texts and the tarot phases forming vignettes, the narrative is relatively easy to follow. His work is often called visual poetry, I would liken it to a cinematic emotional tapestry by comparison. The feelings are more important than the circumstances, which can seem like narrative ambiguity but really isn’t. I am very much looking forward to seeing Song to Song and hope it will be an installment in what he’s done with the first two. They were all shot mostly concurrently and Knight of Cups took 5 years to edit, where it is looking like Song to Song will have around that if not more. I will probably watch To the Wonder and Knight of Cups again before viewing Song to Song hoping for some scale of emotional fulfillment. Thus far his autobiography which ignores details, circumstances and chronology in favor of raw emotion has been rather beautiful, for those of us who stay awake.
Finally I will give you a list of films that I haven’t seen from the 2016 cycle that are probably worthy of our attention. You never really know but most of these are from accomplished filmmakers. None of these are on the Best Foreign language nominee list because that is a list which demands attention by it’s own right.
As I have previously stated, I saw Encino Man at the theater 3 times. I would say a 12 year old me was the only one to recognize the pure genius of this film but it managed to gross $40 million domestically against a $7 million budget. Those figures seem to be the end of the kind things the internet has to say about Encino Man. I had virtually no idea this film was viewed so poorly. The Rotten Tomatoes score of 16% seems pretty low.
This was the less than brave beginning of Hollywood Pictures run of Pauly Shore movies in that seemed to not go away fast enough. I say less than brave because they did not feature Shore as the lead, though he was obviously the star they were trying to create. Hollywood Pictures in and of itself was a less than brave venture as it was the brain child of then Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who envisioned the label to be a full fledged studio in the cast of Touchstone Pictures. So I guess his plan was to segregate the Disney spectrum further to create a PG-13 only label. It didn’t really work.
This was the first feature film directed by USC Alum Les Mayfield. He would go on to direct the remakes of Miracle on 34th Street and Flubber, as well as original films Blue Streak and The Man. The studio would also take a chance on new comer Brendan Frasier to play the lead of Link, or Linkovich Chimovski, apparently Nic Cage and Jim Carrey were in consideration for the role. Sean Astin and Robin Tunney will also appear in the film as well as the screen debut of Rose McGowan. Michael DeLuise will play the villain of sorts, oddly the same year in film that he would appear as Alan in Wayne’s World. I should also mention that the super group Infectious Grooves makes a performance appearance in the film.
Everybody else significant should make a reappearance at some point, however Pauly Shore may not. I don’t hate Pauly Shore as many people do. I think the weasel persona, though annoying is more of a symptom of what was working in comedy at the time. Persona or Character comedy isn’t really a thing anymore but was a big deal in the 80s and he grew up around all of those folks, as his Mother Mitsy Shore is the owner of the fabled Comedy Store on Sunset in LA. Another defense of Shore is that he was perfuming his routine at other clubs and not the Comedy Store when he was coming up.
KAEOF: What is the worst excuse they make for Link. Also which is your least favorite precarious situation. Lastly, this isn’t a pick situation but keep an eye out for the only on screen re-union of two cast members from The Goonies.